There was an interesting op-ed in the Globe and Mail this weekend by Elizabeth Renzetti about dress codes in schools. Specifically, dress codes for girls because it seems that girls are the only sex that warrants dress codes. And this is 2018. Oh, where are you women’s liberation when we need you!
My experience with implicit dress codes starts around 1961 when I first begin school. Boys wear pants. Girls wear skirts. End of discussion. And of course, no discussion ensues. I stuff my skirt into my snow pants like all of my fellow “X” chromosome cohorts and slog to school, chaffing uncomfortably and freezing my butt off. I think this is just normal, while somehow the boys are running ahead not chaffing their leg pits and freezing their knees off.
And here lies the problem. Pantyhose are not readily available until way early in the 1970s. There are little-kid tights that someone with some notion of entrepreneurship should have had a clue about, but at this point, not so much. What we eleven-year-old-girls have to wear is woven stockings held up with a garter belt. My garter belt is a four-inch strip of an elasticized garment. It is as grey as a grandfather’s teeth since I never bother to put it in the wash. It rolls up my middle as I walk because at about 70 pounds, I am so far from having a waist it’s a waste of time to anticipate it. I have about three pairs of tights: grey jacquard, dubious green window-pane, and plain black.
The dress-only dress code persists until High School. The boys, of course, wear gender appropriate pants. And if it is their will, jeans. Boys will be boys. In Grade 10, us girls finally grow a pair and get really, really angry. We demand the right to wear a pantsuit to school! No matter the guys are schlumping around in Che Guevara t-shirts and jean jackets. We deserve to cover our legs for once and for all! ( in a nice way.) A sit-in ensues. Because that’s what you do in 1970.
We do win that round. Pantsuits that would do Hilary Clinton proud are strutted defiantly in the High School halls. Until we figure out that was not the point. The point isn’t appropriating the pants. The point is whipping the people who wear the pants into shape. The next year we fling off the ridiculous pant suits and all us girls start wearing jeans to school. And nothing but jeans. Somehow the world does not end. But in many more ways, that’s the way the world starts. One leg at a time.